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HAWERCHUK SHOOTING FOR RETURN TO LINEUP NEXT WEEK

Injured center Dale Hawerchuk wants to be back in the Buffalo Sabres lineup next week, and coach John Muckler says the team's medical staff believes that is a realistic goal.

"Next week, I'd like to come back," said Hawerchuk, who skated with some of his teammates during an optional workout at the Aud Wednesday.

Hawerchuk has missed 13 of the Sabres' 30 games so far and has played only once since Feb. 25 because of a torn groin muscle.

"It's coming pretty good," Hawerchuk said, but he said he wants to be sure he's 100 percent ready before he plays again. "I've been getting lots of therapy, strengthening and letting it heal.

"I just want to come back healthy and help the team as best I can," Hawerchuk said.

Muckler said reports he is getting from Dr. John Marzo and therapist Joe Aquino indicated Hawerchuk should be able to return next week when Buffalo faces important games against Hartford and Boston.

It will be at least two more weeks, however, before defenseman Alexei Zhitnik (torn calf muscle) is able to return, Muckler said.

Also, left wing Brad May (broken hand) will be out at least two more weeks. That's when his status will be reevaluated and updated.

Forward Matthew Barnaby, who left Tuesday night's game against Quebec and did not return after a fight with Adam Deadmarsh of the Nordiques as the first period ended, was cleared to play against Ottawa tonight.

Barnaby underwent X-rays Wednesday but no damage was found to his right shoulder.

"It was just a pinched nerve and it's feeling much better today," said Barnaby, who originally was injured in last Sunday's loss at Philadelphia.
Jason Dawe played left wing on the line with Pat LaFontaine and Alexander Mogilny and was set up for only his second goal in the last 28 games.

It came off a faceoff which LaFontaine won in the Quebec end. LaFontaine slapped the puck toward the Quebec goal and Dawe was there to cash in.

"Before the goal even happened, Patty told me he was going to go through the center man's legs and for me to go to the net at the far post. A lot of plays like that don't really happen.

"I don't mind either position," Dawe said of the shift from right to left wing. "Last year, I played left wing in the playoffs with (right wing) Wayne Presley."

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